River cruises have become more popular over the last several years, and this growth trend is expected to continue over the next decade. With pandemic, restrictions lifting worldwide and people once again wanting to discover the world but now in smaller, more intimate settings, 2023 is the year to experience river cruising!
In fact, the increased interest in river cruising has triggered several cruise lines like Viking, Avalon, AMAWaterways, Uniworld and American Cruise Lines to expand their itinerary offerings and their fleet of ships. Popular itineraries encompassing the globe include cruises in Europe, South East Asia, South America, Africa and the United States.
River cruising offers a laidback feel and is an excellent value for the money, taking travellers to countries or cities not accessible by large ocean liners. These ships can travel in shallow waters and allow travellers to explore vibrant cities located inland as well as smaller laid-back towns and villages. This is especially enticing to experienced travelers who want to try something slower, less crowded and offers a bit more intellectual stimulation. River cruises are all about immersing yourself in the local art, history, and culture. Additionally, with only 100 to 250 guests per cruise ship, the service on river cruises is heightened with a higher staff-to-guest ratio.
So, all you have to do is choose the part of the world you want to explore and let Damon’s Getaways do the rest. Below are some of the most popular cruises for 2023. Plan your 2023 river cruise holiday today!
Viking cruise lines, one of the top river cruise companies, celebrated its 25th-anniversary last year by welcoming eight Viking Longships in Europe and offering Danube, Rhine, Douro and several river cruise itineraries in France. The Danube and Rhine cruises also offer several itineraries to choose from. This year Viking is also offering a 16-night Capitals of Eastern Europe cruise taking in the five cities of Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava, Bucharest and Belgrade. Shore tours include a visit to one of Budapest’s thermal baths and a “Privileged Access” for a behind-the-scenes tour of Serbia’s National Theatre, home of Serbian opera.
With Avalon cruise lines, another highly rated cruise line, you can discover the timeless tradition and endless European beauty on the Rhine, Danube, Seine, Rhône, Saône, and Douro Rivers. With several routes and journeys to choose from, you can explore the sleepy hamlets of Germany, the special hideaways of Austria and Hungary, the soaring cliffs and castles of France, the captivating colors of Holland, and so much more!
This year Scenic River Cruises has boosted its 14-night Jewels of Europe itinerary on the Rhine, Main and Danube by offering a 17-night option with a pre-cruise land stay in the Croatian capital Zagreb and Slovenian first city Ljubljana. In Zagreb, guests can explore the medieval city centre before a guided tour of the UNESCO-listed Plitvice National Park. Crossing into Slovenia, sightseeing highlights include Ljubljana’s baroque architecture before a visit to the tiny Alpine town of Bled, famous for its glacial lake with an island in the center.
For long cruise enthusiasts who want to experience more in one cruise, the ultimate cruise taking in different destinations, the river equivalent of a world cruise, AmaWaterways and Uniworld are both debuting epic sailings this year. After announcing the longest-ever river cruise, a 46-night sailing through 14 European countries, AmaWaterways received such a positive response that it added two more Seven River Journeys itineraries. There are now departures in April, June and August. Uniworld’s 46-night Rivers of the World cruise departs in May and takes passengers to nine countries aboard five of its “Super Ships” on the cruise and land itinerary that starts in Egypt and ends in Portugal.
South East Asia
South East Asian includes cruises along the Mekong, Ganges and smaller tributary rivers, with a variety of cruise lines offering several itineraries.
Running through China, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, the Mekong River cruise is one of the best ways to experience and see Asia up close. Travelers will find an interesting blend of modern cities and floating villages from the past. Depending on your itinerary, your cruise could include visits to such stunning sites as the ancient Angkor Watt temple complex in Cambodia or visits to floating villages and colorful markets of the Mekong Delta in South Vietnam.
Viking Mekong’s river cruise allows you to shop Old Hanoi’s markets, explore the Khmer temple complex of Angkor Wat, and experience the beauty of Ta Prohm Temple, where the overgrowth of jungle vines entangle ancient ruins. You can also tour Phnom Penh by rickshaw, explore silk towns, fishing villages, monasteries and discover local river life. You can opt for a hotel stay in Hanoi, Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) adding to your eight-day Mekong cruise.
A journey with Avalon Waterways along the Mekong reveals a course of history, mystery, and magical beauty through Vietnam and Cambodia. Avalon cruisers are treated to a fantastic fusion of distinctive sights, ancient wonders, and colorful cultures, while winding through the breathtaking riverscapes and landscapes of Southeast Asia. Avalon delivers an intimate experience with unmatched personalized service aboard the award-winning Avalon SaigonSM. Carrying a maximum of just 36 guests, the Avalon SaigonSM brings you closer to the must-see sights, fascinating stories, and friendly people in each destination. All the while, you’ll enjoy Avalon’s signature relaxed luxury on board. Plus, the Avalon SaigonSM is the only Mekong river cruise ship sailing between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh, eliminating the need for hours of motorcoach travel time — meaning more cruising time for you!
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises also offers Mekong River cruises. Its ship, the Mekong Jewel, debuted in 2020 and is one of the newest and most luxurious ships on the Mekong river. This all-suite ship that holds 68 guests includes two dining venues: one main restaurant and an al fresco eatery on the upper deck. The Mekong Jewel was constructed with sustainable, eco-friendly materials and features a swimming pool, spa, sauna and steam room, gym, hair salon, nail bar, two lounges and a library.
Pandaw specializes in luxury small-ship river cruises in Asia and also offers a variety of Mekong river cruises for singles and vacationers of all ages.
Ganges River cruises take you to bygone land full of mystery and intrigue. India has a long and colorful history dating back thousands of years, with countless stories from medieval times and the Mughal Empire to British rule and independence—to the lasting influence of iconic figures like Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. Today, modern civilization weaves a tapestry of past and present, creating striking contrasts in the buzzing city markets of Delhi. Outside the vibrant cities are the peaceful villages continuing centuries-old ancestral traditions besides the holy river of Hinduism.
Avalon Waterways and Uniworld Boutique offer Ganges river cruises that share an enchanting glimpse of life away from India’s big cities, where you can immerse yourself in the sacred and timeless traditions of the ages on the Ganges. You’ll experience the Ganges that meanders through one of the world’s most fertile and populated areas.
Pandaw specializes in luxury small-ship river cruises in Asia and has several itineraries to see beyond the Ganges into smaller rivers and villages in India.
Amazon River, South America
The Amazon River has long captivated travelers who seek to know the secrets hidden in the dense jungles that line its banks. In decades past, only the most adventurous sojourners would have embarked on a vacation in the Amazon Basin. Fortunately, today, this mysterious world of the Amazon, thanks in part to modern river cruising, is much more accessible.
There are a number of lines that cruise the Amazon, offering from modest to luxurious accommodations. Some boats feature cabins that even boast large picture windows so that travelers can view their surroundings from the comforts of their air-conditioned room.
With Avalon Waterways, you can embark on a journey on one of its Amazon adventure cruises, where you’ll experience the river’s wilderness that originates in Peru. The Amazon Basin covers a large area and runs through several South American countries. However, in Peru, the Amazon is where biodiversity is at its greatest, and the rainforest is most untamed. You’ll venture deep into the Amazon jungle in search of elusive wildlife, swim with pink dolphins, and visit native communities, all while returning to an air-conditioned suite, hot shower, and an oversized plush bed. Avalon offers cruises from the Inca Empire to the Peruvian Amazon that you can combine with Nazca Lines & Galápagos Cruises.
Rainforest Cruises offer the discovery of the Amazon’s mysterious realm of exotic creatures, mystical shamans, and natural wonders on an adventure like no other, the voyage of a lifetime to explore the boundless diversity of the Amazon Rainforest, Mother Nature’s greatest creation. Its cruise itineraries include Peru, Ecuador and Brazil.
You can also board the small 36-person ship, Zafiro, with Smithsonian Journeys. The ship navigates more than 500 miles of the Amazon River, where you’ll witness an amazing variety of flora and fauna and come to understand traditional village life during this once-in-a-lifetime voyage.
A river cruise is one of the best ways to experience Egypt and South Africa. Cruise along the Nile and experience all of its glorious ancient sites, including the pyramids and the Sphinx or choose a South African holiday and hop aboard a Safari cruise.
Viking offers an Egypt Nile River cruise from Cairo to Cario that includes exploring the great pyramids, magnificent cities, and massive temples. You’ll discover one of history’s greatest civilizations that emerged along the banks of the Nile. Viking’s expert Egyptologists take you from the pyramids of Cairo and the temples of Luxor to the desert outpost of Aswan and beyond.
AmaWaterways offers a combined land and Safari river cruise in South Africa where you can tour the larger cities of Capetown and Johannesburg as well as see the world-famous Victoria Falls along with a Chobe River Safari cruise.
For those seeking to explore America, American Cruise Lines introduced its American Serenade on the Mississippi River this year. Two more ships — American Eagle and American Glory — will also arrive for the domestic line as the first two of 12 planned coastal catamarans capable of traversing rivers and lakes for unique waterway combinations. ACL river cruises include Lower and Upper Mississippi River Cruises, Historic South and Golden Isles Cruise (Florida to South Carolina), Columbia and Snake Rivers Cruises, Great Rivers of Florida Cruises, American Revolution Cruise (Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC), San Francisco Bay Cruises and Grand Puget Sound Cruises.
Viking also offers Mississippi River Cruises aboard its newest ship with all outside staterooms, private verandas, spacious public areas and its signature, clean Scandinavian design, reimagined for the Mississippi River. Cruise from St. Paul to New Orleans, or choose a shorter itinerary along the mighty Mississippi.
Book on American Queen Voyages and enjoy life aboard an American riverboat that transports you to new adventures — and back in time on the lower Mississippi River, upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, Ohio River and Mississippi Rivers, Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers or Columbia and Snake Rivers.
USA River Cruises, small ship experts, also offer Columbia, Great Lakes, Mississippi and New England cruises.